With the NBA season in its twilight, we must look towards the NFL season as training camps begin to open throughout the league. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys report July 21, while most others open July 29. Soon Sunday’s will be worth living again.
While the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills are obvious choices to win the AFC Championship, below we’ll preview a prominent franchise that had a losing record last season for the first time since 2000 – one I’m sure you’ve heard of before.
All odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
Compare odds from all major sportsbooks for AFC Conference Winners >>
The 2020 season was unmemorable for the Patriots and fans alike. The departure of quarterback Tom Brady left a gaping hole under center, as Cam Newton did not fulfill expectations – playing 15 games and throwing for 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.
However, after doling out an NFL record $159.6 million in guaranteed money to free agents this past offseason, the organization has new hope and still has Bill Belichick at the helm – the best coach in NFL history.
2020 Offensive Statistics
Record: 7 – 9
Pass YPG: 180.6
Rush YPG: 146.6
Despite the third-best rushing attack, this team struggled mightily offensively as they could not move the ball downfield. New England ranked 30th in passing offense last season as Cam Newton never found a rhythm, and the roster lacked strong receiving options.
To remedy their inefficiencies, the Patriots beefed up the offense during their spending free. Bill Belichick signed tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, both of whom are dangerous receiving options that will allow offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to get creative. Additionally, they signed receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne to give the passing game a much-needed boost.
With Newton proclaiming himself healthy for the first time in years, this offense could be dangerous – especially if Agholor’s breakout 2020 proves not a fluke.
If trouble at QB arises yet again, they have former Alabama standout Mac Jones waiting to take the reins after being drafted 15th overall in the 2021 draft. But Cam has stated it’s “put-up or shut-up time,” so we’ll see if he’s able to back that up.
News story: Cam Newton says the 2021 season is “put-up or shut-up time”, while acknowledging that actions will speak louder than words. https://t.co/N4FIbsiBYE
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) July 15, 2021
The ‘Pats didn’t just load up offensively but improved defensively, as well. They signed stud linebacker Matt Judon to a four-year deal that shores up their edge and pass rush as he has registered 34.5 career sacks and brought back Kyle Van Noy, who spent last season with the Miami Dolphins.
They also signed former Philadelphia Eagles CB/S Jalen Mills, who provides positional flexibility and depth, which looms important as star cornerback Stephen Gilmore threatens to holdout. To shore up the defensive line, they brought in former Green Bay Packer Montravius Adams. The defensive lineman is a low-risk, high-reward signing whom the team believes has potential.
After drubbing the Los Angeles Chargers 45-0 nothing last season, the 2020 Patriots stood 6-6 despite an uncharacteristic void of talent – teetering on playoff contention. If Newton proves healthy and their many notable offseason additions click, any team coached by Belichick has a chance of success.
Pick: New England Patriots (+1600)
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Jordan Anderson is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Jordan, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @Jordan_A03.
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